Putin backlash as Russians ‘desert’ propaganda over Ukraine war: ‘Emperors new clothes’

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Vladimir Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine continued with fresh attacks on cities across the country at the weekend. Ukrainian authorities said at least eight people were killed after Russian shelling on a residential area and a shopping centre in the Podilskyi district of the capital Kyiv on Sunday. Meanwhile, besieged Mariupol in southern Ukraine, continues to face a barrage of Russian attacks.

The strategic port city is home to 300,000 people, who remain trapped without power or water, and with scarce food supplies.

Ukraine has rejected Moscow’s deadline for those defending the city to disarm in exchange for citizens being allowed to evacuate.

Amid the horrors of war in Ukraine, Putin has attempted to keep the Russian public onside through a relentless propaganda campaign, disseminated by state media outlets that remain doggedly loyal to the Kremlin.

The Russian President also addressed a huge rally in Moscow on Friday, praising his nation’s supposed “unity” over the war in Ukraine – or as the Kremlin calls it, the “special operation”.

However, there is mounting evidence that Russian troops’ barbaric attacks on Ukrainian civilians are starting to filter through to the public back home, according to the country’s former Foreign Minister.

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Andrei Kozyrev spoke to ‘The Economist Asks’ podcast last week and explained that he was seeing Russians waking up to the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, describing the situation as one of “the emperor’s new clothes”.

The ex-politician was asked if protesters like Marina Ovsyannikova – who recently crashed a Russian state TV broadcast with an anti-war sign – were having an impact on ordinary citizens in Russia.

He told host Anne McElvoy: “Well, definitely. Marina Ovsyannikova, of course, is a hero.

“I believe that it might have an impact. Like a girl once cried, ‘the emperor has no clothes’.

“And everybody all of a sudden opened their eyes and recognised that they lived in the world of lies.

“Something culturally is happening right now in Russia.

“The journalists and many other people start to look inside themselves into their souls and find that it is high time to desert the propaganda.”

He added: “Some of them risk a lot like Marina. She is still risking a prison term.

“But that is how the heroes behave.”

Ms Ovsyannikova, the head of news at Channel One television, hijacked a live bulletin on the broadcaster’s Vremya evening news show last Monday to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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The editor-turned-protester emerged on the set of the programme shouting: “Stop the war. No to war.”

She wielded a homemade sign that read in Russian: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here,” and in English added: “Russians against the war.”

Ms Ovsyannikova was immediately detained for her actions and a Moscow court fined her 30,000 rubles (£220).

The editor has now “handed in all the documents” for her resignation from Channel One, she told France 24 last week.

On Sunday, the former editor spoke to ABC’s ‘This Week’ about her motivation for her protest.

She said: “After a week of coverage of this situation, the atmosphere on the channel was so unpleasant that I realised that I could not go back there.

“I could see what in reality was happening in Ukraine.

“And what we showed on our programmes was very different from what was going on in reality.”

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